This weekend the F1 circus hits the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, one of the original classic racing tracks set in Northern Italy. This week though there is an added frisson as Eddie Jordan, the BBC pundit has claimed that Lewis Hamilton is set to move to Mercedes, whilst Michael Schumacher is gong to retire at the end of the season. Is he right?
Monza is a fantastic track on which drivers are pedal-to-the-metal for the great majority of each lap. Built in 1922 but modified greatly since then, mainly owing to safety concerns. As speeds climbed the chicanes Ascari and Curva Grande were added to reduce the top speeds that were being reached.
This year the attention will be on Lewis Hamilton and Ross Brawn of Mercedes. Is Eddie Jordan right? He has been right before, and prides himself on being one step ahead. Certainly his interview with Bernie Ecclestone which was shown on the BBC suggested very strongly that Schumacher was retiring. Bernie spoke as though it was a done deal. So EJ is probably 50% right. Schumacher though has not had the return to F1 he would have wanted. His departure is no great surprise. But Lewis to Mercedes…that is a different matter.
Lewis Hamilton has been contracted to McLaren since he was 13. The team has been a welcoming surrounding in which he has grown as a driver. It will be hard for him to leave McLaren behind, knowing the faith they have shown in him. But his new management, XIX Entertainment might see a better fit for their superstar at Mercedes. F1 lovers would place McLaren over Mercedes in terms of racing teams, but Mercedes is a bigger, global brand. To be associated with Mercedes might well be the means of broadening Hamilton’s appeal that his management seem to crave.
For pure driving reasons Hamilton would be better off staying at McLaren. They are the racing team, they are not going to pull out of F1 as Mercedes might. But if Mercedes are going to lose Schumacher they will want to replace him with another superstar and Hamilton fits that bill. It is hard to see who is bluffing, but EJ has been right on these big F1 issues before. Watch this space!